Priyam Acharya is the author of the book Seasons and the way that we are.
Tell us about the idea behind the book?
The ideas that are reflected in TWTWA have been brewing within me for quite some time – and as I’ve expressed in the blurb of the book, the pandemic was quite a catalyst for me in converting those abstract ideas into definite words and verses. Having always lived in a city like Mumbai, I have very closely witnessed and experienced the complex emotions that are a part of an urban existence – loneliness, mundaneness, the desire to break free, melancholy, spirituality of convenience, the joy of first love…and so on. And each of us now after witnessing a pandemic and a lockdown have come face to face with these emotions more than we could have ever imagined. It was this reality that gave me the impetus to weave out verses closely connected with these concepts. So basically, I wanted the end result to be a collection of verses that anyone living in a city can easily connect with, relate to – like ‘hey, yeah i have been through this!’
Your favourite poem from the book?
At the risk of sounding self-indulgent, I’ll say I have a few verses that I really like! I love to read ‘A Whirlpool in my Sparkling Coffee’ and ‘Affogato’. Besides, I also like ‘My New Home’ and ‘The Perfect God’.
How much time did it take in the process of writing?
I began working on TWTWA a few months after the release of Seasons – mid-2019. I did take a couple of breaks for weeks and months together when I didn’t touch the manuscript at all. All in all, about a year and a half to finish the whole collection.
What did the process of writing this book teach you?
It teaches me patience – a virtue with which I’m absolutely alien! I still have a lot to learn. There used to be times when it would just freak me out if I didn’t have any idea as to what to write on a given day. But now, being two books old, I realize that it’s perfectly okay not to be brimming with ideas all the time – even if you’re in a creative field. Secondly, the value of letting go. It’s such an underrated virtue, seriously. And perhaps the most difficult to practice! Again. I’d say on that front as well, I’m still learning.
What inspired you to write this book?
As I’ve said, TWTWA became a reality when I merged some pandemic musings with distinct ideas which were always in my mind. Like in the case of Seasons, I have found inspiration from random events, places that I visit and people that I know – and that shall continue to be the case with my future works as well.
5 books one must read in a lifetime
Well, I never personally recommend books to people because we are all so different with distinct tastes. But yeah, I can surely name 5 books that I have loved and which have contributed somewhere in making me the way that I have turned out as a person.
1. Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak – it had me swept off my feet. Right from the concept of this book to the language and handling of the plot, it’s just so mesmerizing and moving!
2. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – I read this magnum opus while I was in law school and this was such a hard-hitting work – never ever read anything that can even come close to it! The literary genius of Tolstoy at its very best! What’s more – I don’t know if you can call it disappointing or fascinating, the depiction of infidelity in a marriage in upper society Russia of the 19th century, still feels so relevant in our times too! No matter how progressive we may call ourselves a society, one can totally imagine an identical story taking shape in 21st century India too! This may be an unpopular opinion, but I have to say it!
3. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom – I have read this a couple of times. And every time, it has offered me a fresh perspective. It’s like a handbook of modern day existence. Need not say anything more on this! I’d like to just sneak in one extra title here with which I have drawn parallels – The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. While the former naturally has a more modern approach to the style of writing, both these books have life lessons narrated in a similar way. Morrie is the Prophet of his book, I’d say. I love Kahlil Gibran, by the way!
4. The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk – I have read this in more recent times. Besides the fact that it’s set in Istanbul, a city I completely loved as a visitor, I was floored by the sheer intensity and passion with which the emotion of melancholy has been expressed in the book. It’s immensely powerful and left me in tears on some occasions.
5. Letters to Milena by Franz Kafka – An absolutely timeless work. You can pick this up, read it all in one go. Or in bits and pieces. Each letter has so much to offer! Or just read a couple of them randomly and keep the book aside. The works (letters) are so full of life, raw emotions! And at the same time, it’s not a heavy read because as I mentioned you’re not compelled to hold on to the book until you finish reading all the letters!
A book that had an impact on you, which helped you in writing this one?
I can’t say that a book has served as an inspiration for me to write mine – but I have been inspired by my favorite works mentioned above in so far as my style of writing is concerned. And I can only wish that I could write half as good as they have in their lifetimes!
Tell us about your publishing journey in 5 words.
Full of Highs and Lows
Tell us about your plans? Planning a new book?
Ideas walk in and out everyday – some for a new collection – verses or short stories. I don’t know what’s going to happen next.
What is a literary success for you?
As a writer if you objectively believe that you haven’t repeated the mistakes of your previous work – somewhere, no matter how little, celebrate it as your literary success. It by no means implies that you haven’t made any mistakes – just that you have not repeated the older ones. I don’t see the number of copies sold as a criteria or a unit to measure success of an author. People buy books just out of curiosity, just because someone said so, just because everyone’s reading it, just because they loved the cover or sometimes out of sheer boredom. It doesn’t mean that they actually read it – it doesn’t mean it made any difference to their lives. It effectively means nothing, except for a record of sale made in some part of the world. But if i have a person coming up to me or writing to me that they really liked something about my work, or something in the book touched their lives in some way, that according to me contributes to my literary success. I don’t want my books to be lying in maximum household libraries and book closets gathering dust – all I want is people reading it and feeling a connection with those verses – No matter how small that segment of people might be.
A message for all the readers.
Please don’t trade your reading hours for extra time on social media or watching TV! Keep the art of reading alive. We are already a dying, diminishing community! Books and Chill – yes, let’s make it cool again!